Jeremy Payne Hightower

Hightower's Jeremy Payne runs the ball against the Paetow Panthers earlier this season. Payne rushed for 225 yards and a touchdown in last week's regional semifinal, and the Hurricanes will have a rematch with Paetow in the state quarterfinals this weekend at Rice Stadium on Friday. (Photo by Landan Kuhlmann)

Hightower sophomore Jeremy Payne may not have been a known commodity to those outside the Fort Bend football community prior to the postseason.

But that might not be the case much longer at his current pace, and it’s helped the Hurricanes to a historic season thus far. The sophomore running back paced the Hurricanes’ offense on Friday night at Hall Stadium, rushing for 225 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in Hightower’s 31-21 victory over the Manvel Mavericks in a Class 5A Division I regional semifinal.

Payne has now rushed for 662 yards and six touchdowns in three playoff games, running for at least 200 yards and a score in each contest.

Hightower (11-2) will face another district rival in Katy Paetow (12-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Rice Stadium in Houston in the state quarterfinals. It is the first time the Hurricanes have made it to the state quarterfinals since 2011, when they eventually lost to Southlake Carroll in the state championship game.

Sophomore quarterback K.J. Penson threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns for a Hightower attack that piled 430 yards of offense in the game, throwing a score apiece to Kaleb Johnson, Caleb Douglas, and Alijah Jones. Douglas – who is committed to USC – had four total catches for 73 yards, while Johnson accumulated five catches for 104 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Julian Payne led a defensive surge that held the Mavericks to a lone score and less than 100 total yards in the second half, while Dailon Ellis had a fourth-down sack late in the fourth quarter to effectively seal the win.

Ridge Point’s season ends in regional semis

It was not as rosy an outcome for the area’s other remaining playoff team, as the Ridge Point Panthers dropped a 24-21 decision to Humble Atascocita Friday night at the University of Houston’s TDECU Stadium. Quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr. threw touchdown passes to Kerien Charlo and Wilson Batiste while adding a rushing score in the final game of his high school career.

Ridge Point ends the season with an 11-2 overall record.

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